Two types of birds are most common in chimney bird nest problems, Starlings but more often Jackdaws are the culprits.
From April to the end of July is the jackdaw nesting season, although problems often occur beyond these months because jackdaws are very territorial and often hang about all year.

You should never underestimate the problem or these birds as they are surprisingly intelligent, resourceful and some of the most determined when it comes to nest building. It is surprising how many cases of birds nests I see just driving around every spring.
All too often a bricked up fireplace hides a multitude of sins and takes the owner’s mind off the flue and pot completely.

What you need to consider when you have this problem?

The crows nests that you see in trees, when inside chimneys are built on top of a structure more akin to a beavers dam. They just keep throwing twigs down until a nest support platform (which is often at least 6-10 ft deep or more) is created.

The worst case that I personally remember was an old big building in Barassie that had multiple generations of jackdaw nests on top of each other. The runs in the chimneys were convoluted hence hindering removal of the nest material and so the only course of action was to open up the wall above in the loft space.

Eventually, we removed 13 bin-bags of nesting material which took over 9 hours with little to no time for resting. Removal is ALWAYS HARD physical and labour INTENSIVE work. If you are (Un)Lucky enough to see us undertaking the task you will see we do not stop for breaks and endeavour to keep ourselves fit and strong for this purpose.

It gets worse too… IF left alone & forgotten about

If left unaddressed, one of the worst case scenarios for your house is that it will eventually cause dampness problems and when they get severe enough, they will threaten your very house.
Nests act as sponges for the rain which will eventually soak through into your inner and sometimes outer walls.

Oftentimes, I will see the signs of dampness above the affected chimney fireplace where the walls meet the ceiling and this may also be in the room directly above too, depending on the height of the nest and run of the flues.

***If your building was built prior to the mid 1950’s, then the mortar between your flue bricks/stones is made from sand and lime not concrete. This is very susceptible to the sulphurous acid made when the sulphur from coal soot is dissolved in rain coming into your chimney flue .** So the older your building the worse this problem gets.

If your flue gets damaged enough, you will eventually need to get a liner fitted to be able to use it again, providing any rubble collapses allow of course.

What we can and can’t do for you.

Firstly, we remind you that IF there are eggs or chicks in the nest it is illegal to block access to or remove them, unless you have a special license. So from the end of March till August you will need to wait till the birds have left (as you can read here RSPB Nest Removal Regulations.)

The most relevant part is, “The breeding season for Jackdaw’s is April – July. Therefore, if you are unsure there is a nesting Jackdaw, then the best advice is to wait until the end of August.

However , if you feel it is an emergency or other urgent situation that needs dealt with immediately. We can make a judgement call in determining if the nest is old , in use or not.

We Guarantee

We guarantee your birds nest problem will be removed completely 100% as shown to you live at the time of removal by our FREE CCTV Inspection (normally costs From £60).

If we can do it in an hour or less it will be done! We do NOT mess around or take breaks as we work to appointment. And we endeavour to keep ourselves fit & strong all year round for this very purpose.

Trying to put a time figure on nest removal is kind of like asking how long is a piece of string. However, on average with our professional power sweeping system, our In-house designed {Destrukto-Head} and a wee bit of luck… 99% of nests are COMPLETELY removed within an hour or two at the most.

***Supplying and fitting a bird Cage/China Hat prevents further problems…and WE MAKE IT MANDATORY because we simply don’t want to have to do the same job twice.***


What you should do ?

but now that you are here…

Firstly, do NOT underestimate the problem!! This is potentially one of the worst things that can happen to your chimney flue. You need to act and get it removed and you need to prevent it from happening again.

Please read our normal preparation guidelines and T&C’s but also bear in mind that this work can sometimes be a bit messy. We need open access to the fireplace to create the forces necessary to remove the blockage. In doing so we cannot always close it to the same degree as when we are doing a normal sweeping job. So you should consider covering your floors, furniture and perhaps removing things from the room in advance.

NB/ If you have a stove fitted and are unfortunate enough to have a nest blocking its’ flue, you MAY NEED to have it DISCONNECTED by an installer BEFORE we can remove the problem for you.
Unfortunately we are not magicians who can pull nests through flue pipes nor reverse gravity … the nest will have to come out of the bottom.

DEFRA Approved Stoves

A Defra Approved stove , or more accurately termed a ‘Defra Smoke Exempt Appliance’ , is a wood burning stove which has passed the UK Government’s Department of Environment , Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) criteria for emission levels and the amount of smoke that it will be allowed to produce during normal operation.

Defra Approved stoves have been modified by the manufacturer to limit the amount that it can be ‘closed down’ or in other words , by how much it can be starved of air without creating smoky combustion.
A Defra approved stove will always provide the minimum level of combustion air so that the wood burns efficiently without producing unnecessary smoke , thus ensuring that the appliance complies with the Clean Air Act (1952). Using a Defra approved wood burner will allow you to burn wood legally in any UK Smoke Control Area .. which most of the UK’s cities and large towns now belong to.

Why should I buy a Defra approved stove?

If you want to burn wood and you live in a UK city or large town which is classified as a Smoke Control Area , then in order not to break the law and risk being fined , you must use a Defra Smoke Exempt Appliance.
This is a wood burner which has been modified to pass the stringent Defra emissions tests which limit the amount of smoke that the appliance can make. However , wherever you live a Defra Approved wood burner is a very good idea anyway because it is more environmentally friendly since (if operated correctly) , it cannot produce nuisance smoke. It will also usually mean that your chimney and flue system stay cleaner for a lot longer.

Smaller liners are easier to fit and cheaper

If your chimney is going to be lined with stainless steel twin wall flexible liner and you plan on using a 5kW stove , (virtually all of which feature 5″ [125mm] flue outlets) if you choose a Defra Approved 5kW stove you can also fit a 5″ (125mm) liner rather than the wider and more expensive standard 6″ (150mm) saving yourself some money on the liner.

In addition , it means that the narrower liner will be easier to fit and could also be useful where the chimney stack is very old and non-standard and/or where the liner’s route has some awkward bends. This solution is acceptable by both HETAS and Building Control.

If you need a bigger stove than a 5kW then it is important to note that they nearly always have a 6″ (150mm) flue outlet and must for safety reasons always use a 6″ (150mm) liner. It is both dangerous and an infringement of Building Regulations Document J to reduce it.

Can I burn other fuels using a Defra approved stove ?

If the Defra Approved stove is also a multi fuel stove , then provided you choose an approved smokeless fuel from Defra’s list such as Anthracite ovals and the stove manufacturer’s manual also says that such fuels are not prohibited , then the answer is yes.
However , burning damp wood or other wet fuel will create nuisance smoke and irrespective of whether or not the stove is Defra Approved , you will be in breach of the Clean Air Act and risk prosecution if you cause excessive smoke which upsets your neighbours.

What is different about a Defra approved stove?

From the outside nothing , it’s only the unseen combustion air control mechanism , usually inside the top front , underneath the base of the fire box or on the rear that is different.
It will usually have been modified to allow a small continuous amount of combustion air through to the fuel which stops it smouldering when the air controls are or appear to be fully closed.
Since the Defra tests are only concerned with wood , then this modification is generally undertaken to the secondary air inlet.

[Due to the expense of putting a wood burner through the stringent Defra tests some manufacturers , who sell two versions of the same model , will often charge more for the Defra approved model to cover their test costs].

Other manufacturers will sell an additional Smoke Exempt compliance kit or propose that an adjustment is carried out by the installer. However , it is important to understand that you will be breaking the law if you burn wood and the kit has not been fitted or the adjustment has not been made to your stove if you live in a Smoke Control Area. The kit or the adjustment are simply not options that you can do without in this instance.

Is it better to choose a Defra approved stove?

A Defra Approved stove is going to be cleaner burning overall because it’s hard to make the wood fuel smoulder and smoke since it cannot ever be completely starved of air. This is good for the quality of the air that we all breath and particularly good at keeping our neighbours [and chimney sweeps] happy.
It’s also good for your chimney or flue system because the stove is producing less smoke and therefore producing less soot , so that your stove and its’ flue system are a lot less likely to get clogged up.

However , if you intend to slumber burn with wood fuel to extend the burn time (eg overnight) then a Defra Approved stove will not offer you the same burn time as a non-Defra Approved equivalent. This is because a minimum amount of combustion air will always be delivered to keep the fuel from the smoky smouldering that is associated with slumber burning.

Even if you swapped fuel to a smokeless coal for overnight burning and were using a multi fuel Defra Approved stove then the continuous supply of secondary air required for the configuration would still significantly curb the burn time of the smokeless coal.
That is not to say that Defra Approved stoves are inefficient , quite the reverse. They ensure that enough combustion air is continuously supplied to make the wood burn effectively throughout the whole burn cycle. Of course If you live in a Smoke Control Area and you want to burn wood , then you don’t have the choice.

Can I use a non-Defra approved stove in a smoke control area?

The answer is yes but you can only burn Defra Approved Smokeless Fuels and unfortunately wood isn’t one of them.

Stainless Steel Flexible Liners & Smokeless fuels: What you need to know.

Occasionally a chimney flue will be in such a bad condition that a liner will be required. This might be due in part to the age of the building but is definitely more to do with the user (or abuser as the case may be) of the flue: as in what they burn, how often and how they burn it.

Prior to the 1950’s , the mortar between the bricks generally consists of old sand and lime material mixes. This tends to disintegrate and dissolve away when the sulphur in the soot mixes with water to create Sulphurous acid (H2S03) which is [NB/only one oxygen away from Sulphuric acid (H2SO4) ] pretty acidic stuff. It is also responsible for the acid rain effects environmentalists have been banging on about for a few decades now.

All coal contains sulphur in it to a greater or lesser extent , with the higher (smokeless) grades having much more & often halogens too unfortunately. I personally , have seen a china hat I fitted to a flue that uses only smokeless fuel last just 18 months (these often last more than 10 years in other conditions) before it fell to pieces.
As a sweep , for me personally it doesn’t take very long to realise I am sweeping a smokeless burning appliance. After the stuff gets on my face , I can literally count to 30 before my skin feels like it is melting off , the soot is indeed horrible stuff to a chimney sweeps skin complexion , never mind his health if inhaled.

However , on the plus side smokeless fuel does create a lot less soot & other pollutions overall.
It can be useful when used occasionally on very dirty open fires. Fires that burn lots of cheap house (bituminous) coal and/or a lot of wood too can benefit by using an odd bag here & there (such as one bag per season) as it reduces the soot volume by aggregating it together.

Chimney Liners

Chimney liners come in many forms , for example in the USA most chimneys are ceramic block types that are rectangular and slot together. Here in the UK some are concrete tubes that have been poured and allowed to set. Furan-Flex liners are made of a polymer type material which has a 25 year life time guarantee but being expensive is not very common , I have never come across one yet. You may often see twin wall (shiny steel or matt black) rigid pipe sticking out of an external wall or through a roof. All liners have their own properties and as such , pros and cons or strengths and weaknesses.

For the most part here in the UK though , flexible Copex style stainless steel liners which come in 2 grades are used. The 316 which is suggested for use in wood burning only stoves and the 904 which is suggested for multifuel stoves. If you don’t know what the difference between wood burning and multifuel types of stoves are , you can read about them here in our previous article from 2015. Although these stainless steel liners are suggested for use in stoves , they are occasionally found in normal open fires too. In this case they are often connected to a hood up inside the fireplace which looks & acts as a fume collector not unlike the hoods you often see above kitchen cookers.

These types of stainless steel liners are composed of two layers an INSIDE and OUTSIDE layer so not all are made the same (read on to Schiedel information below).
Some liners are 904 with an external layer of 316 on the outside. The inner 904 protects from corrosives (found in smoke and gases) whilst the outer 316 is a solid extra barrier to rust from a damp chimney. I would always choose a liner with a 904 internal core but I appreciate that finances can dictate decisions and a 316 grade internal core is not necessarily a poor choice if you intend to only burn dry hard wood.

Stainless Steel Grades

The difference is purely one of quality. The 904 grade is a higher grade of stainless steel than the 316 grade and is less likely over time to corrode from the inside. The terms 904 and 316 are terms used within the stainless steel industry and are not peculiar to just the wood-burning stove market.
If you do not want to read any further: just choose the 904 grade high quality flue liner especially if you are a “heavy user” and DEFINITELY IF you are going to burn smokeless fuel. Choose the 316 grade flue liner if you are on a budget and you intend to burn ONLY seasoned (dry) wood as a light to medium user.

As I said above in the opening paragraph , the state of your flue is more to do with the user/abuser as the case may be , liners do not last for ever. Even if just burning wood which is damp or with paint on the surface , the dampness & corrosives from the paint will shorten the life of the liner quite dramatically.

Definitely choose 904 grade chimney flue liner if you are installing a boiler stove because it is more likely to be slumbered overnight and when slumbering , less of the nasties in the gases are burned away.
Any stove that is likely to be slumbered will benefit from a 904 grade liner **(slumbering is when you turn the air supply right down until the fire is almost going out but not quite and is NOT recommended nor is shutting off exhaust vents by use of a damper plate in the flue pipe, for many reasons but mainly because it is blocking the monoxide escape path!)**.
Slumbering is also bad for the environment , puts you at risk from monoxide and tars up your flue , so your chimney sweep won’t be too happy either.

Different manufacturers offer different guarantees on liners. Those with a 904 core get a longer guarantee than a liner with a 316 core , generally 25 or 30 years as opposed to 15 years as a rule.

***However , don’t get too excited about the guarantees: if your liner does get damaged in less that time then it is probably likely YOU have done something wrong and manufacturer’s can , if they wish prove this with tests. So this kind of situation can quickly descend into a blame game.***

You should get your liner swept regularly (your chimney sweep can help by producing their records to show this if required) and take all possible precautions (burn a correct fuel , in the correct way , have a china hat fitted to deflect rain and use ALL other measures to avoid dampness in your flue) to ensure your liner is protected.
**Even if a manufacturer does replace your liner , they are not going to pay for any labour or scaffolding costs which is often the greater expense in these matters**.

Not all liners are made the same

Liners with a 904 core should last considerably longer than liners with a 316 core , although some sweeps would definitely disagree with that statement and are of the opinion there is not much difference between the two grades of steel , especially once corrosion has set in.
NB// Bear in mind not all liners are made the same so it always pays to buy a better quality brand than a cheapo version!!
Also , DIYers do NOT be tempted to try to save money by using a Gas fire liner on a solid fuel appliance , as they are single cored and are in no way rated for solid fuel use.

The German Connection

In the chimney sweeping world you would be hard pressed to find any country more obsessed with high standards than Germany. The Schornsteinfeger is quite an important person and indeed has a lot of power as you can see here in Wikipedia.

The award-winning German chimney component manufacturer Schiedel and its premium TecnoFlex liner is widely used by HETAS and Oftec installers all over the UK. Formed in a completely different way than most other liners , TecnoFlex has an unbreakable lock between layers which prevents it from pulling apart and keeps the inside super smooth for easy down drainage of condensates. This super smooth layer also helps prevent soot and tar from building up on the inside of the liner potentially preventing blockages. Schiedel liner material is imported from Germany and finished off here in the UK by skilled technicians.

They make and sell the highest grade liner sold in the UK – 904/904 grade liner – NOT 904/316 like many other manufacturers – which is perfect for wood and smokeless coal burning but NOT at the same time !!!

Why?? because the moisture in the wood will mix with the sulphur in the coal soot creating sulphurous acid…. remember ??

Buying a new House ? What this could mean for you and for us.

Just recently, we had a few new customers within a short period of time who had all recently bought a new property and wanted to start as they mean to go on by getting their chimneys swept and checked out. So far so good, it is a wise decision to get us in sooner rather than later when you are about to start decorating.

Often times when we get a call from a new owner like this, there may be a surprise or two waiting for us in the flue. When on initial inspection i find a bag, a bunch of newspapers or something else stuffed up inside the flue, it often turns out to be a sign i may be about to find something worse too. This could be anything from just an old dusty/really dirty lum to something like a collapse full of rubble, bad birds nest or even worse problems. It seems almost nobody thinks to take a torch to look up inside the flue and unfortunately this seems to include most of the surveyors that you pay so much money to for advice.

One of these new owners got a nasty, “surprise moving in present” which presented itself to me in the form of massive stalactites of burnt soot when i shone my torch up the flue. This immediately told me a few things about the previous owner. He had burnt his fire relentlessly over the years without getting it swept, to the point it had been badly on fire numerous times. He very obviously didn’t care about what he burned, maintenance, nor his or the new owners safety, .. or for that matter even a sense of fair play.

The actual bag blew off with the sheer amount of debris

For us the job easily entailed something like the effort of ten normal sweeps and also took about 6 or 7 times the length of time to do a normal sweep. A few hours later we were satisfied the chimney was swept to standard and after cleaning up, we were left with 4 full bin bags of burnt crispy soot (if this had been normal soot it would have been another 2 bags at least) on the hearth.

Several hours later

This job for me, easily won the ‘worst lum of Scotland’ award. It was without doubt the single worst job in my entire career since i took over from my father in 2012. There have been a few contenders from time to time but this won hands down, it was something else indeed.

Voila job complete ..finally, phew!

Unfortunately, for the new owners this was only a sample of the previous owners exceptionally nasty & careless character. They went on to tell us about numerous other nightmares plaguing the house that they had inherited after buying it. This old so and so had actually stolen all the electrical fixtures & fittings leaving sparking wires where the original light switches & sockets had been too, wow.

So, the moral of this story is be careful when you are buying a property folks. It is wise to get the sweep in to do his thing before thinking about decorating just in case there are problems in your flue too.